Open up Everton's media guide and turn to the coaching staff bios. There a steely-eyed picture of David Moyes stares back at readers. His face is lined with stories of victory and defeat, of precious points both gained and lost, along with improbable cup runs and crushing defeats.
Compare it to a similar picture from 10 years earlier and it shows just how taxing football's most competitive league can be. The sleepless nights worrying about injuries to a threadbare squad, desperately trying to make a move on Deadline Day, and lots of shouting and anger on the touchline have conspired to age a face full of youth and optimism.
It has been a long and arduous journey at Everton for Moyes. At times Everton has seemed to be on top of the world, while at other times everything seems lost as the club desperately tries to stave off relegation. Still other seasons are filled with joy and exuberance, as well as the always welcome European adventure. David Moyes has lived these feelings and more as he has been the point man responsible for resurrecting Everton Football Club toward the lofty heights its supporters demand. While there is still work to be done, looking back at this 11-year journey it is impossible to feel much beyond admiration at what the Scottish native has accomplished on Merseyside.
Not all managerial appointments are met with enthusiasm by fans, but David Moyes knew just what to say when he declared Everton"The People's Club" when introduced to the press. The young Scot was considered a shock hire by most around professional football, though he was well thought of during his spell at Preston North End. Moyes then hit the ground running with a fantastic victory over Fulham and helped guide the club to safety and ensure his time in the Premier League would continue. It is a journey that has taken him to Wembley (twice), several European adventures, Everton's highest finish in the Premier League, and the third-longest tenure in the Premier League.
It has been a journey shadowed by the absence of silverware, but there are still some fantastic moments to be found. Moyes' first full season saw the distinct possibility of relegation, and it was a sign of things to come that Everton would go on to finish seventh. It had been a long time since the club was surrounded by such optimism, and frankly it was sorely needed.
One of the biggest dreams for most EPL clubs is to secure a Champions League berth. The promise of riches and a chance at playing on Europe's grandest stage puts fans into an absolute frenzy while thinking about it. For Evertonians, that dream came true during a season where the club should have been relegated rather than finishing above Liverpool.
Heading north on A59 away from Liverpool, the city slowly gives way to suburbs. Rows of houses spring up as the road bobs and weaves. Eventually football fans turn onto the A580, and in the distance a green park can be seen. Ahead of that park on some nights is a collection of light. Driving closer, traffic slows to a crawl as fans wrapped in blue march toward the light. Fans have reached one of the last hallowed grounds in football, The Grand Old Lady.
There is a moment in any season where fans can look back and realize this is where success became real. For Everton, they had to wait until Manchester United arrived at Goodison Park on a chilly April evening for football. Goodison Park at night is always a special place a pitch where fans sing all night and Everton can never lose. Once again Everton rose to the occasion as Duncan Ferguson headed home a gorgeous free kick past, appropriately enough, an outstretched Tim Howard. David Moyes raced down the touchline as Goodison exploded in ecstasy.
From then on, Everton's eventual fourth place finish seemed like destiny, and several weeks later an announcer spoke some of the best words Evertonians have heard during the Premier League: "Everton is closing in on three points, and closing in on the Champions League!!"
Though the next season began with the disappointment of exiting the Champions League early coupled with an 11th place finish, David Moyes would ensure Everton never saw the bottom half of the table again. A top 10 finish is now expected at Everton, and anything outside of European qualification is viewed as a disappointment.
Along the way there has been both success and disappointment at the cup level. Evertonians will always remember the 2009 trip to Wembley. The stellar performance against Manchester United in the semifinal and a valiant loss to Chelsea in the final showed just how good this squad could be. We will not speak much of the 2012 frustration at the hands of Liverpool, and this year.
How It Happens
While some managers are known for how they tailor their tactics to their rosters, and others cram players into a certain formation, Moyes has shown an ability to do both. Moyes prefers a 4-5-1 formation that he rarely deviates from, but how that formation works has changed over time.
Moyes has always seemed to favor working the ball down the flanks and crossing the ball onto the head of an incoming player. Tim Cahill fulfilled this role spectacularly for many years, and now it is down to Marouane Fellaini to use his ‘fro for scoring. Occasionally the squad would create something through the center, but even Mikel Arteta on his best day was not able to do that consistently. The arrival of Leighton Baines allowed Everton to become an absolute force down the left, but teams have been able to stop it by doubling up down Everton's left flank. When available, Everton will gallop down the right flank, especially when Seamus Coleman gets a chance to do a Gareth Bale impression, but it is fair to say Everton is overly reliant on its left side.
Because of this dependency on the flanks, Moyes requires a specific combination of outside midfielders and fullbacks. There is a preference for outside backs who like to get forward. If the fullbacks can get forward, it adds another dimension to Everton's offense. For outside midfielders, Moyes seems to prefer players who are willing to cut inside on the attack. One of the biggest reasons Steven Pienaar and Baines get along so well is Pienaar's desire to cut inside frees up all kinds of space for Baines to exploit.
In the center of the pitch, Moyes prefers to run with three midfielders, or two midfielders and a withdrawn forward depending on which expert you ask. Two of the midfielders sit defensively to help provide some cover for the center backs, but Moyes likes for both to get involved with the attack. The second defensive midfielder is going to get forward a little more often. When a Moyes squad is in control of the match, the defensive midfielders seem to play almost more like traditional central midfielders and like to get involved in the attack.
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The midfield is the biggest area where Moyes has made changes over his decade in charge. Originally the two defensive midfielders would form a box with the center backs to provide a stalwart defense, but Moyes has begun allowing the defensive midfielders to venture forward more. This has allowed Everton to play a more attacking brand of football, but it has also exposed some huge defensive liabilities, such as pretty much any time Johnny Heitinga has been at fault for a goal.
As for the attacking midfield role, David Moyes has one requirement for it, win balls in the air. Both Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini have done this well, and it makes Everton's wide play all the more dangerous. Occasionally Moyes will try a more creative player in this role, but it often causes problems because no one is available in the box to receive crosses from out wide.
As mentioned before, the striker role is Moyes boogeyman. Try as he might, Moyes has yet to find a consistent goal scorer that can elevate Everton to a consistent challenger for Champions League football. It is frustrating to see so many of Everton's campaigns become undone due to an inability to score.
Buying On A Budget
In today's Premier League it is difficult to compete without money. Top players routinely cost over 25 million quid, and once wages are factored in all but the richest teams are priced out of the market. Unlike most clubs Everton are skint in the transfer market. Moyes has to sell to buy more often than not, and any extra money he gets pushes the club further into debt. Thankfully Moyes has become a master of buying on a budget, and the numbers show just how impressive this is.
Under Moyes, the club has averaged £13.31 million in player sales per season, and spent an average of £16.21 million each year. Out of the 14 teams listed above, Everton's average spending per year is the 10th highest. Moyes worked all of this spending and player sales into an average finish of 7.55 during the past 11 seasons which is the sixth-highest in the above table.
To compare Moyes work to clubs similar to Everton, the Toffees have spent £29 million less than Tottenham on average each season, but averaged a finish on .37 places below the North London club. Fulham is the club closes to Everton in terms of player spending, and their £13 million was only good enough for an average finish of 11.72 during Moyes reign at Everton.
It can't be doubted that Moyes knows how to spend on a budget, even with several expensive slipups such as the purchase of Yakubu, Andy Johnson, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. All of these players turned out to be overpriced, but Moyes was able to overcome these unfortunate additions to the club.
Being Passed Over For Jobs
Go into any manager's office in England to ask about David Moyes, and all anyone will hear is plaudits. Sir Alex Ferguson frequently comments on the fantastic job Moyes has done at Everton, and there are few managers in the league that have expectations and budget at such opposite ends of the table.
The real question is how David Moyes seems to be passed over for jobs with clubs both larger and of a similar size. In the past few years Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Chelsea have all had vacancies, but the closest Moyes came to any of these jobs was internet speculation. The lack of an offer from Villa is understandable, but it seems odd that both Chelsea and Tottenham had no desire to even talk to the Scot. Moyes has shown he can play attractive soccer when he has the players, but that he isn't going to try to force the wrong formation on his players like a certain former Chelsea manager.
Despite claims of conspiracy theories, there are two rather simple explanations for the lack of attention around Moyes. The first is that until recently he has always seemed content at Goodison Park. Despite having to work harder than his fellow managers at other clubs, Moyes has always relished the challenge. He has taken pride in the squad's success, and commiserated in their failures. Moves to clubs like Aston Villa and Sunderland are pointless for a manager of Moyes' stature. While good clubs, the next challenge for Moyes lies at the top of the table.
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The other reason Moyes hasn't been called on is the sheer idiocy of many football clubs. Look at any of the top leagues in Europe and count how many managers are sacked only to be rehired by another lcub within a year. Football clubs have no desire to take a chance on a new or unproven manager, and to the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, and Chelsea that is exactly what David Moyes is. Executives at these clubs most likely see him as an excellent mid-table side manager, but one who can't win trophies. Should Moyes win an FA Cup with Everton this perception could change, but until then it will require a very gutsy executive to hire Moyes at one of the big clubs in England. After the current season Moyes has had at Everton, it isn't hard to see Moyes being sought after by some bigger clubs.
With three matches in the season, there is no doubt this is the greatest team David Moyes has assembled on a pitch. Though silverware is out, the squad has shown an ability to compete for a European spot despite having no players that cost over 15 million pounds, and few that cost even more than 10 million.
Moyes has dealt with injuries to influential playmakers and a lineup that doesn't have the depth to compete with clubs like Tottenham and Chelsea, but can pull out fantastic results against these clubs. Moyes also reversed the maddening trend of playing like Liverpool during the first half of the season. For a group of fans who are used to being angry around Christmas, this has been a welcome relief. Evertonians have been in full song at Goodison during the fall, and even a recent rough patch in form has done little to curb the enthusiasm for this side.
Everton was in fifth place through 19 matches this year, one of the best starts the club has ever had under Moyes. This is a far cry from the days when the club would be close enough to sniff the relegation zone around Christmas, and require a furious second half to even have a chance of reaching Europe.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment has been doing all this while playing some nice soccer. Mr. Gerrard of Liverpool was quite happy to lump Everton in with the likes of Stoke City earlier this year, but Everton look more like a Swansea or Arsenal side than a club whose sole mission is to find the forehead of Peter Crouch with a ball from the goalkeeper. There have always been Moyes detractors who claim he plays conservative and defensive soccer, but it is undeniable that Everton have tried to play a more open game than previous years.
As Everton enters the home stretch, there is still a small shot at European football. Though it requires slip-ups by clubs like Arsenal and Spurs, it isn't out of the realm of possibility. Following Moyes' press conference after the loss to Wigan, fans can't help but feel 4th place is the only way David Moyes stays at the club.
There comes a time when it has to end in sports. When an athlete's body can't endure the punishment of another taxing season, or when the will to compete just isn't there anymore. For managers it is the same sometimes the game has passed them by, and for others old age has come to claim the strength of will required to marshal 25 men through trials and tribulations. The end comes even for the greatest at a position, as well as the journeymen who move from job to job. The ending is rarely pretty, and for David Moyes and Everton, that ending is coming sooner rather than later.
This year Everton's final home match is against West Ham on May 12th. Around five in the afternoon, David Moyes will leave his coaches' box and walk over to shake the hand of compatriot Sam Allardyce. Always one to fly under the radar, The People's Manager will quietly survey the players saluting the fans for a season of support before heading down the tunnel for what seems certain to be the final time. At the bottom of the tunnel, Moyes will turn his thoughts to a season finale against Chelsea that may carry European implications and probably a future without Everton.
Could Moyes be saying goodbye? Paul Thomas / Getty Images
In a perfect Everton world, the club will have secured a Champions League berth by now and David Moyes will have signed a new contract to keep him at Goodison Park until the long dreaded day when Sir Alex Ferguson decides it is time to hand the reins over to a younger manager full of promise.
Unfortunately, even the most optimistic Everton supporter wouldn't bank on this scenario. Moyes has finally assembled a quality side that, while lacking depth, has consistently challenged the big clubs in England for a full 90 minutes. The only clubs with fewer losses are in Manchester, and no pundit can claim Everton are punching above their weight this season. With Moyes' recent statements about waiting until the summer to discuss a new contract, it is no shock that the mood on Merseyside is a little grim.
If this truly is the end then it will be a moment worthy of appreciation from all Evertonians. David Moyes has been in charge for over a decade. That is more than half the time the Premier League has even been in existence. Fans who think of Everton are more likely to turn their thoughts to Moyes than any of the players. Sure, he has had his bad moments, but he is worthy of joining the giants of Everton. He allowed us all to not just demand, but expect better from the Toffees. Everton is one of the most successful clubs in England, but before Moyes Everton was lost at the bottom of the table. Now European qualification is demanded, and top 10 finishes are expected rather than celebrated. After all this time it has become simple, David Moyes is Everton.